Four students in Ternate expelled from university for participating in peaceful demonstration for West Papua

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The director of Khairun University expelled four students for participating in a peaceful demonstration in commemoration of the ‘Papuan Independence Day’ in front of the Muhammadiyah University Campus in Ternate, Maluku Utara Province, on 2 December 2019. Police officers forcefully dispersed the demonstration and arrested the students Arbi M Nur, Fahyudi Kabir, Ikra S Alkatiri and Fahrul Ahmad Abdullah along with 6 other protesters. The protesters were subsequently detained for 24 hours at the Ternate District Police Station. According to the students, the officers dragged and repeatedly beat the protesters during arrest. After the release, the Ternate district police sent a letter to the directorate of Khairun University, stating that the students had participated in activities which ‘must be categorised as treasonous acts (makar)’. Although the police letter is not a legally binding document, the University expelled the students for their involvement in the peaceful protest.

The Indonesian Peoples’ Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) who had organised the peaceful rally in Ternate expressed concerns over the shrinking space for freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the freedom of peaceful assembly and association at Indonesian universities. The organisations demanded the Kahirun University to withdraw the exmatriculation and called upon the executive board to uphold and respect academic freedoms and fundamental freedoms to enable a free discourse on any topic in academic environments. The Khairun University representative, Mr Zulkifli Zam Zam, defended the exclusion in an interview with the Indonesian news outlet Tirto ID. Zulkifli stated, that the university had in vain tried to convince the students that their views on West Papua are not in line with the views of the Indonesian nation, of which the Khairun University is a part. The students announced, they will file their case to the Administrative Court (Pengadilan Tata Usaha Negara) if the University does not withdraw the exmatriculation.